New to Stargate SG-1? Beware of SPOILERS for Season Seven’s “Heroes” in this story.
What’s the best episode of Stargate SG-1?
Whenever we ask fans, or cast members, or crew, the answer is very often the same: Out of its 214 hours Stargate SG-1 did its best work with the emotional, funny, action-packed, and dramatically gut-wrenching 2-part episode “Heroes.” It aired late in the show’s seventh season, and — very controversially — killed off a beloved character.
In a new conversation with “Dial the Gate” host David Read, the episode’s writer Robert C. Cooper discussed “Heroes” and how it evolved into something quite different than what was first written on the page. Cooper was also an executive producer on the long-running series.
Watch the conversation here:
Cooper said the idea for a documentary film crew interviewing people at Stargate Command was inspired by a similar episode of M.A.S.H. Though the product that Emmett Bregman (guest star Saul Rubinek) was going to produce would never see the light of day, given the top-secret nature of the Stargate program, it provided an opportunity to examine the show’s characters as ordinary people who come to work, put their lives on the line, and do extraordinary things.
“For me part of the approach to ‘Heroes’ was, ‘Let’s really examine how incredible the Stargate program really is — and the people we’re following,'” Cooper said. “So we built to that and figured, well what if this documentary filmmaker was this guy coming in, and he was making essentially a time capsule piece that he couldn’t even release?”
“Heroes” was originally written as a single episode and intended to air in the first half of the show’s seventh season. When director Andy Mikita’s first cut came in long (around 58 minutes, over the normal 42), producers made the unusual decision to write more material and expand it to a double-length episode.
“I saw this as an opportunity,” Cooper said, “and then it became a question of logistics. How do we actually execute it? And at that point I started spinning ideas about how to fill it out into a 2-parter.”
That required moving the episode to the back half of the season, getting approval from both MGM and the network and making sure they could schedule the same director after the production’s mid-year hiatus.
The move also made space to introduce a new character to the series. Tasked with investigating the fatal mission for the I.O.A. was Richard Woolsey. Actor Robert Picardo was cast in the role for the additional scenes, which covered Part 2’s focus on his investigation.
In the full, hour-long conversation Cooper also dispelled one long-held myth about the episode. We’ve long believed that the character of Janet Fraiser was killed off only after the episode was expanded and moved to the final block of what the writers believed was going to be SG-1‘s final season.
Cooper suggests that this decision was, in fact, part of the original plan for “Heroes.”
“To be perfectly honest, by the time that fate [the show’s return for an eighth season, alongside spin-off Stargate Atlantis] had been sealed I think we were already moving towards [a continuation]. … I don’t remember the sequence of events, of Atlantis being picked up versus the decision to kill Janet. But yeah, at that point we were sort of full-steam ahead on the two shows.”
“Any time we talked about killing a character it was obviously a big deal in the room,” he said. “And in that case we didn’t do it lightly. … To me it was like you have to occasionally lose someone in order for there to be any real jeopardy, in order to feel like there is actual stakes in the show. If we had just lost a ‘Red Shirt’ I don’t think it would have been the same.”
“To me the story didn’t work if we hadn’t killed somebody we cared about.”
Be sure to watch the full clip above, and for more with Robert C. Cooper check out the full livestream archived on Dial the Gate’s YouTube channel. New interviews with Stargate’s cast and crew are streaming live nearly every weekend.
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